One of the questions I’m asked most often is: ‘How do I choose the right accountant?’ It’s not as easy as you’d think.

In an age where accountants’ roles have evolved and technology has changed the landscape from the traditional accountancy model, there’s a lot to consider.

When you’re looking for an accountant, choosing the right one will depend on where you are in your business journey.

Your needs as a start-up will be completely different to those of an established business – so the first step is to find an accountant that caters to your current position.

Then, think about the challenges you’re facing in your business. What’s keeping you awake at night? Perhaps you’re struggling with cashflow, maybe you’re making losses, or it could be that you’ve got a good cash position but you don’t know what to do with it? Knowing the biggest financial hurdles you’re facing is crucial.

When you go to see a new accountant, don’t go in empty-handed. Make sure you have all the relevant facts and figures with you.

Knowing your turnover, your profitability, how much money you’re taking out of your business each month, and everything in between. This will help you clearly match your needs with the package that will help you take your business forward.

Next, think about the type of support you’re looking for. Some accountants might email you a set of numbers every quarter, some might send you paper documents, others might check in with you regularly, in person.

If you’re keen to have face-to-face meetings and go through paperwork, you’ll need someone local. If you’d be happy with video calls, you can explore further afield. Technology makes anything possible today!

Some business owners seek out accountants that specialise in their industry, and there are both advantages and disadvantages to that approach.

Working with someone who understands the inner workings of your sector can make things a little easier, especially if your sector has particular accounting requirements. It’s also useful to work with someone who knows the software in your industry, like stock management or back-office programs.

Working with an accountant from outside your sector can also be beneficial. They can bring you fresh ideas, knowledge and inspiration from a wide range of clients across diverse industries. But ultimately, remember that you’re the specialist. Operationally, it’s you that knows your business best.

When you meet a new accountant for the first time, it’s also useful to find out if they work with any similar businesses to yours – perhaps providing a similar service, of a similar size or who face similar challenges. This can be a key question, because if they understand where you are, they’ll be in the best position to support you.

The big consideration, of course, is price. So often, business owners get caught out by thinking they know how much something’s going to cost them, but at the end of the financial year, they’re hit with surprise bills.

That isn’t ideal for any business, but if you’re a start-up or small business with limited funds, it can put unnecessary strain on your cashflow.

Make sure you’re crystal clear on your accountant’s pricing model. Is it a set fee, and will that price change? Does it cover everything you’ve discussed, or are they basing their fee on the time they’re going to take? Are you likely to get an unexpected bill if they take longer than expected?

And – crucially – if you get in touch with any queries, will they charge you extra or are those included in your package? Don’t sign up to anything until you’re completely clear on exactly how much it’s going to cost.

Once you’re clear on the price, the final piece of the jigsaw is to understand exactly what’s included – and excluded – from your service. Can you access all of their team, or just certain people? Are they purely processing your tax return, or providing tax advice too?

A thorough accountant will give you a clear proposal that outlines all the services you discussed at your meeting, the specific price they’ve quoted to you, what you’ll get for that price, and how you need to pay.

Finding an accountant may seem like a simple choice, but if you follow those tips, you’ll get so much more from the service – and your business.

Fresh Clarity specialise in helping small business owners like you to free up your time, improve your finances, get that all-important peace of mind and work-life balance, and above all, to manage and grow your business successfully and sustainably.

Can we help you reclaim some of your valuable time and money, and give you peace of mind that your business is moving in the right direction? Yes, we can – arrange a free discovery call with us to find out how.